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Opposing Viewpoint: 5 Questions (and Answers) About Buccaneers

The Vikings enter the final quarter of the 2020 season with a 6-6 record, and would be in a Wild Card spot if the season ended today.

Minnesota will now face a tough test at Tampa Bay against the 7-5 Buccaneers, who are also in a playoff spot with four games left.

The Vikings are viewed as underdogs in Week 14, as Minnesota is looking to get a win against Tom Brady for the first time in six tries.

But what are the Buccaneers thinking about as Sunday looms?

To find that out, chatted with Buccaneers reporter Casey Phillips for a glance at what Tampa Bay is thinking before Sunday's game.

Here is the Week 14 edition of Opposing Viewpoint:

Tampa Bay is coming off its bye week, and should be well-rested for the final four regular-season games of 2020. Given that the Buccaneers lost three of four games before the break, what was the biggest focus for Head Coach Bruce Arians this past week?

CP: Arians said it was about getting healthy. The thing about having a really late bye week, but after 12 weeks in a row, it had really taken its toll. Even guys who were playing, were playing banged up. Wide receiver Chris Godwin broke a finger and had to have six pins put in, and only missed one game and was scoring touchdowns with pins still in his finger.

It's crazy to realize the guys that were playing, and playing well, were also playing hurt. Health was actually the biggest focus, but he also talked about doing some self-scouting. He said the answers there are what they thought they were going in; there weren't any big revelations there. It was more just about execution and not letting yourself get into some tough third-down situations on either side of the ball. But it was mostly about getting healthy and execution.

You can't talk about the Buccaneers in 2020 without bringing up Tom Brady. What has his first season in Tampa Bay been like on the field, and how has his transition to a new team after 20 seasons with the Patriots gone?

CP: It's been really interesting. I think because it's Tom Brady, people forget that, no matter what, if you're a quarterback with new wide receivers, that's going to take some time to develop. And when it's the first time with a new team in 20 years, without an offseason and a preseason, it's not quite as automatic as maybe everybody assumed it would be … coming out in Week 1 and throwing six touchdowns a game.

I think considering the weird offseason and lack of time they have had to jell — then you add Antonio Brown late in the season — it's been pretty impressive. You see a lot of deep balls being hit; it's not like they haven't hit them at all. It definitely seemed better [in Week 12] after a drought. The guys on the team, regardless of the stats, say he has elevated a lot of people. Guys have said, 'If you're playing with the GOAT, you don't want to disappoint him.' He's really set a tone for work ethic, attitude, leadership, accountability … all of that has really paid dividends.

The Buccaneers have a handful of standout defenders, but there's a rookie whose name will be quite familiar to Vikings fans. What kind of impact has Antoine Winfield, Jr., made in his first season?

CP: That guy is incredible. It doesn't feel like he's a rookie at all. Coaches have been singing his praises like crazy, both for his play on the field and for the way he approaches everything. Very humble, very hard-working, very coachable … all the things these coaches want and love. He's not a big attention-seeking guy. He's come in so levelheaded, and without an offseason or preseason. Of all the years that rookies should not have succeeded early, he came out in Week 1 and earned the starting job and proved why. He's made big splash plays, and there hasn't been one second where he has looked like a rookie. I can't imagine what his future potentially holds, and we are very excited to have him here."

Both Minnesota (6-6) and Tampa Bay (7-5) would be in the NFC playoffs if the season ended today. And both teams can strengthen their claim toward a playoff spot by getting a win Sunday. How much have the Buccaneers talked about the importance of this game for postseason purposes?

CP: Bruce Arians was asked about that this week and he said it was a "huge game." Bruce isn't always the kind of guy to give a lot of hype to things, so for him to say that was actually a pretty big statement. They know they essentially holds their future in their hands. If the Bucs win out, they are guaranteed a spot. And even if they win three of four, it looks pretty good and might depend on seeding.

This particular game against the Vikings is the singular most important game, by far. You can solidify your spot and get some people trying to come from behind you and chase you down off your back. I like that this is the first game of these last four, because it will really tell them how important the rest of the games are and what they need to do. If the Bucs were to lose Sunday, they'd probably feel the need to win out. But a win would give them a little cushion, and it wouldn't feel as dramatic to lose one. This is a huge one, and I feel like the timing is really unfortunate since the Vikings have gone from 1-5 to being on our heels here."

Look back at photos over the course of time featuring games between the Vikings and the Buccaneers.

And finally, what do the Buccaneers believe will be the biggest key on offense and defense to getting a win in Week 14?

CP: Defensively, stopping the run. Probably every team that faces the Vikings, that's step No. 1. But thankfully, that's one of the Bucs biggest strengths defensively. This is going to be one of those games of strength against strength. That's going to be a fun battle to watch. The Bucs run defense was No. 1 against the run last season, and they brought back the majority of their front seven and have continued their dominance in that area. Only one team has rushed for 100 yards collectively, and I don't believe we've allowed a single rusher by himself to get over 100 yards this season. Stopping Dalvin Cook will be huge.

Offensively, getting off to a faster start. Part of that is stopping Dalvin Cook and big, long drives and giving up opening points. But they haven't been able to get into the offense they've wanted to because they've gotten behind in the first quarter so often. They have to abandon the run game and start putting Brady in a tough position of trying to make a lot of throws that he might not want to, because of the fact you're playing catch up. They need to dictate the pace, dictate the game plan early on by stopping your run, and activating our run, in order to control the clock is going to be huge.